Department Message

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa continues to pursue the mission with which it has defined itself for the past eighty years—to improve appreciation in Western philosophical circles of the rich conceptual resources to be found in the philosophical traditions of India, East Asia, and the Buddhist and Islamic worlds, and to facilitate philosophical dialogue between East and West. Our students are trained within the context of a standard American philosophy curriculum, and then have the bonus of achieving real credibility in the languages and texts of at least one of the non-Western traditions. We have come a long way towards accomplishing this mission over the past half century. Graduates of our doctoral program now hold influential academic positions in universities around the world.  Our department journals are thriving, our comparativists are as productive as ever, and Honolulu remains a Mecca for scholars working in Asian and comparative philosophy.


In recent years what had been a relatively stable configuration of senior professors has begun to turn over with departures and retirements. This has made room for the department to reinvigorate itself by recruiting a number of most impressive young professors. Masato Ishida, arriving in 2009 with a Ph.D. from Penn State, brought us further depth in Japanese philosophy and American pragmatism. Joseph Tanke, arriving in 2011 with a Ph.D. from Boston College, brought us additional coverage in aesthetics and Continental (especially contemporary French) philosophy. And George Tsai, arriving in 2012 with a Ph.D. from Berkeley, brought us additional depth in ethics, social and political philosophy. In the summer of 2016, Roger Ames, who had been the editor of our department journal, Philosophy East and West, for almost thirty years, retired and moved to Beijing. Given the enormous gap his departure created, we requested, and received, permission to hire a senior and distinguished specialist in Chinese philosophy to replace him. We were delighted to be able to bring on board in this capacity Franklin Perkins, recently of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

We take great pride in the quality of our graduate program, and ensure its continued excellence with high admission standards. Those students who join us find themselves in a remarkably stimulating intellectual environment. In addition to the many academic conferences that our department sponsors (most importantly, of course, the East-West Philosophers’ Conference, which attracts distinguished philosophers from around the world, and which our department has been staging roughly twice a decade ever since the mid-1930s), with financial support from the Uehiro Foundation, our graduate students stage their own annual philosophy conference, which attracts participants from the mainland USA and Canada, and in recent years from Australia and Japan as well. So too, parallelling our department colloquia series, which stages two or three presentations a month by visiting as well as in-house professors, our graduate students stage their own colloquia series, which once a month gives one of our graduate students an opportunity to present work in progress to an audience of peers. The PSA—or (graduate) Philosophy Students’ Association—stages weekly reading groups, hosts film nights for the discussion of thought-provoking classic movies, and organizes workshops with faculty members several times a semester, including a Philosophy Speaks! Series (on translation), a series on pedagogy, and individual workshops on publication and job-seeking. While I’m on the subject of job-seeking, I have to mention that over the past decade roughly eighty per cent of our newly minted Ph.D.s have landed long-term academic appointments.

All in all, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa continues to be a very special place in which to pursue philosophy. I invite you to browse through our website in order to learn more about us, and to apply to our graduate program if you are a philosophy major and you like what you see.

Ronald Bontekoe, Former Chair